by Alexandra Tuschka
Well, where is the Queen of Sheba, who gave her name to the painting? Presumably she is sitting in the ship, which is the unmistakable center of the painting. The embarkation coincides with a sunset that bathes the painting in a warm light. A few boats are still on the water and the shore edges are bustling with activity. The architecture as well as elements of clothing clearly show ancient influences.
Lorrain, born in Lorraine, spent most of his life in Rome. There he was seized by a longing for antiquity, which is reflected in his paintings. The landscape, heroically transfigured, is one of Lorrain's trademarks. It takes, compared to the people, a picture-dominant role. People and concrete pictorial subjects take a back seat to it and participate only secondarily in the action. By titling his paintings after historical or biblical events, the painter enhanced the paintings in the sense of the Academy.
Nevertheless, Lorrain's landscapes are rarely infused with liveliness - rather, nature offers a peaceful environment for equally peaceful people, who would have little to do against its - also compositional - superiority anyway.
Claude Lorrain - The Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba
Oil on canvas, 1648, 194 x 149 cm, National Gallery in London